It never happened in George Orwell's 1984, but Channel 4's Big Brother is facing censure. Wilbur Smith's greatest fear was rats, but the fourth channels' executives face much worse 42,000 complaints to Ofcom.
Luke Johnson, the chairman, after providing no defence whatsoever on Radio 4's Today programme last week, has now ordered a full review of the editorial (and compliance) procedures for Big Brother.
However, not wanting their Hutton moment, the channel has kept the 'celebrity' madhouse on the air until Sunday night.
Reading from a prepared statement from the channel's Horseferry Lane HQ he noted the "unprecedented" complaints, but spun the gaffe as an "important debate".
Dispite the 2,635 complains upheld against the last regular version of the franchise (Big Brother is fleecing you) the Channel 4 chief, after an all day meeting, did his best to play down the channels' playing of 'the race card'.
"Clearly many people were worried and offended by what they saw," he said. "We profoundly regret any offence that may have been caused. On behalf of the board the chief executive and I have commissioned a review of the editorial and compliance processes that support Big Brother. The board will receive a full report and seek to identify any lessons that can be learned for the future. The programme remains on air for a further week and the channel is focused on its completion."
The monumental size of the problem is being played down, of course, but this mistake must rank alongside the BBC's error in disclosing Jonatan Ross' renumeration which lost the BBC a couple of billion pounds this week in funding.
"We are expecting to hear from Ofcom in the near future detailing the nature and number of complaints they have received and requesting a formal response to their questions. Our own review will also help support this process. All board members of Channel 4 abhor racism. We are also committed to ensuring that the channel continues to fulfil its remit to explore important social issues."
At least the Big Brother audience, now accustomed to using their phones to vote out housemates, has proven that it can register its collective anger to Ofcom and Channel 4.
But Channel 4 could have pulled the plug on Big Brother and saved the channel.